Children of Guatemala
Realizing Children’s Rights in Guatemala
After 36 years of civil war, with more than 200,000 victims and 45,000 people that have disappeared, Guatemala is struggling to rebuild. The situation of children is difficult and laborious. Many problems affect the rights of the youth, most notably among the aboriginal children.
Realization of Children’s Rights Index : 7,29 / 10
Population: 14 million
Life expectancy: 72,1 years
Main problems faced by children in Guatemala:
In Guatemala, 56% of the population lives below the poverty line. This situation affects most severely the children of minorities. Poverty has many consequences on the lives of children: health problems, malnutrition, and obligation to work to the detriment of their education.
Guatemala doesn’t offer sufficient health services to meet the needs of the entire population. Thus, some health problems that particularly affect children are not able to be improved. For example, the infant mortality rate is very high.
Furthermore, it lacks much of the infrastructure and personnel suitable for the country. The health of children is, therefore, difficult to ensure and diseases are diverse and numerous. Also, many traditional mindsets are opposed to necessary care and consequently creates a supplemental barrier to the rights of children’s health.
More than 20% of Guatemalan children are forced to work to contribute to their family’s income. This situation is one of the worst in Latin America. Employers take advantage of the youth and ignorance of these children, having them do the most dangerous work. They work in many different sectors: polishing shoes, night work in factories, washing cars, street vendors, construction workers, maids or even garbage collectors.
Exploitation of children
Guatemala is home to much illicit and dangerous trafficking. Children are the first victims of criminals who use them without hesitation. As in many countries, poverty proliferates activities such as; drug trafficking, prostitution, pornography, child trafficking, organ trafficking and illegal adoption. Children are confronted by violence and insecurity in the streets; they are targets and the means of action necessary for traffickers. The prevailing crime and impunity ensures that little is done to prevent this.
Young girls are the main victims of these criminals. They are seriously abused, and exhibit much evidence of torture and sexual abuse.
Violence is very destructive in Guatemala and it affects many children.
In addition, violence can also be seen within families as well as at school. Corporal punishment is accepted for the most part and practiced by a population that does not use any other method. Thus many children are abused and end up on their own, with no secure place to go. Neither their family, nor their school saves them from it.
35% of young Guatemalan girls are married before the age of 18. They are prepared very early for their future status as wives and they are still unable to understand the implications. Such marriages have dire consequences on the physical health and psyche of the young girls.
Native minorities such as the Maya, the Garifuna and the Xinca constitute more than half of the total population in Guatemala. They are constantly victims of acts of discrimination and are marginalized in society. The aboriginal children, primary victims of this segregation, find a good number of obstacles to the enjoyment of their fundamental rights.
Information about their rights and protection is considerably lacking in this country. They are much more vulnerable and more affected by these rampant issues in Guatemala. These native children suffer immensely from extreme poverty and the malnutrition that follows. They are susceptible to sexual and economic exploitation. Their situation is dramatic, especially as they face ignorance or worse, hate from the rest of the population.
The lack of food is a daily concern for many Guatemalan families. Poverty prevents them from obtaining a sufficient amount of food to fulfill the nutritional needs of everyone. Children are the first victims. In 2009, half of children suffered from chronic malnutrition, and the percentage is even higher for native children.
The health problems linked to these issues are numerous and can be very serious: stunted growth, fatigue, weakened immune system and diarrhea.
Stories of children
“I’m Pedro. I live in a refugee camp in Guatemala called El Triunfo. This is where I was born. Until a few years ago, my country was ravaged by a long and very bloody war. At the time, my parents lived in a very dangerous zone. They had to leave their village and come here to the camp to find safety. They told me that after they left the village, their house, the school and the entire village were destroyed.
Global campaign for education
Child in the Culture of the Country
Birth: in Guatemala, the midwife has an important role in the successful birth: she prepares a potion that speeds up the contractions. She helps the soon to be mother in other ways as well. Traditionally, the umbilical cord was suspended in the kitchen if it’s a girl (for her to be a good caretaker) or attached from a tree branch if it’s a boy (so he becomes strong).
Their custom also prohibits a young mother from entering into a church until 40 days after the birth.
Baby teeth: in Guatemala, like everywhere in the world, there are rituals for children when they lose their baby teeth. Young Guatemalans throw their teeth over the rooftops. They also sing a few songs in which they ask for their new teeth to be healthy.
Adhesion to the CRC
The international Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the first legally binding international instrument of children’s rights protection.
Date of signature: January 26th, 1990
Date of ratification: June 6th, 1990
Declarations and Reservations :
Guatemala has appended a declaration to the ratification of the CRC, article 1 with article 30 of the Guatemalan constitution stating that, “the State guarantees and protects from the moment of conception of a human life and also the integrity and security of the person.”
To discover another country, click on the continent
- Unicef, Guatemala
- Concluding observations : Committee on the Rights of the Child, Guatemala
- CISS : Guatemala: Child labour: from the bondage of criminality to the dignity of the person
- Global campaign for education
- Site web : Ma petite souris
- CRIN, Guatemala
- Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook
- World Bank
- Amnesty International, Annual report, The state of the world’s human rights
- United Nations, Treaty collection : list of signatories and parties, with their declarations and their reservations
- Venir au monde, Lise Bartoli, Editions Payot, 2007
Written by : Valentine Fau
Review by : Corinne Douziech
Translated by : Emma Serianni
Review by : Karen Strousse
Last update 02nd december 2011